Recently for a work activity I had to think of an adversity I had faced in my life. On the surface this seems like a fairly simple task. Challenge is, after all, part of the human condition.
Without adversity we wouldn’t grow and develop as people. Without setbacks we wouldn’t have to re-evaluate our trajectory, finding innovative solutions to what may have appeared complex problems.
Studies have shown that the ability to access multiple pathways to a solution is crucial to having hope. Without adversity there would be no need to develop this ability, and thus no ability to develop hope.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the task – think of an adversity – I struggled. I flipped through my mental file of recent challenges…parking fines, work-life imbalance, time spent commuting…and I realised none of them really fit the bill for capital A adversity.
I went further back in my mind – struggling to dredge up pain from years past, to find this adversity which I knew must be lurking.
And I realised something I already knew.
Capital A adversities, the big ones, the ones which change the trajectory of our lives and personalities and our ability to comprehend ourselves as a person within this world, after a time they become so much of our personality they cease to carry pain.
Without these scary-big-huge-enormous life-changing challenges we have all faced at some points in our lives, we wouldn’t be who we are. Without my history of adversity I wouldn’t have the empathy I do. I wouldn’t have the resilience I am proud of. I wouldn’t have the calm ability to re-set and re-evaluate. I wouldn’t feel the freedom I do to make my world my own, not someone else’s expectation of correct path or *right* way.
When we face an adversity it becomes part of us. It is a stone we carry in our pocket. Sometimes that stone is heavy, particularly initially. Sometimes we forget it’s there. Sometimes we take it out and examine it, look at it from a different angle, with new information.
I think, if we are lucky; if we have the right people around us, or we have enough of the right sort of information, challenges teach us how to hope. They teach us that with skill or time or luck or persistence, bad things can become good.
If the conditions are poor; a lack of support, without the mental capacity to cope, these stones can weigh us down pretty quickly.
I am lucky. Despite the stones I am carrying in my pocket, I was lucky to have the right words said, the right people close, the right school or books or movies or thoughts to help ensure that these capital A adversities are now a familiar part of who I am.
They are not my whole story. But they are a part of who I am. Without them, my life wouldn’t be what it is.
So, despite the weight, the burden, the potentially painful re-evaluation of who I am today and how or whether my life would be different without these stones in my pocket, sometimes I pull them out and have another look at them. It reminds me that future challenges will eventually join them, and I will be a richer, more nuanced person for the experience.
“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”
― Edgar Allan Poe